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Health Spotlight: new rapid test for Lyme disease

(WISH) — Experts have warned this summer’s tick season will be especially bad.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report almost half a million people with tick bites are infected with Lyme disease each year. Some symptoms include fever, headaches, fatigue, and a bull’s-eye rash around the site of the bite.

But, misdiagnosis is common. In fact, a recent study by says less than a quarter of patients reported being correctly diagnosed within six months of experiencing symptoms. Another statistic from the nationwide survey showed 61% of patients took more than two years to get a correct diagnosis.

Now, a test being developed could help people get the right diagnosis quicker.

Adriana Furey, a Lyme disease patient, said, “It felt like someone was stabbing my brain.”

A beekeeper, Furey isn’t afraid of much, except for the arachnid that almost killed her. “I never actually saw a tick bite.”

After years of misdiagnosis and dozens of doctors, she was told she had chronic Lyme disease, which is difficult to catch.

Microbiologist Mollie Jewett says current Lyme disease tests are complicated. That’s why her lab has worked to make it easier and quicker to diagnose. “We want clear and quick because the longer you don’t have a diagnosis, the more likely you are to have ongoing, increasing disease challenges.”

Jewett and her team are creating a molecular blood test that doesn’t just test for antibodies in the blood specific for Lyme disease, but also uses another device that directly detects the bacteria that causes it.
The handheld device would be in doctor’s offices, so there’s no waiting for lab results, follow-up tests or both.

“Our ultimate target would be within 15 minutes,” Jewett said.

If Lyme disease is caught early and treated with antibiotics, patients typically recover quickly without long-term effects. Furey wishes that would have happened to her, but now feels blessed to finally have the diagnosis she was desperately seeking.

Furey said, “It taught me so many lessons of just gratitude and how much we take for granted.”

This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV. Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.